Saturday, May 14, 2011
I sell bad breath
I have a bad habit of accumulating seemingly random information. My wife believes that my lifelong dream must be appearing on a game show someday to take advantage of this valuable knowledge.
One story that I've picked up that I particularly like is the story behind Listerine. Listerine has a fascinating history that not only helps bring me one step closer to game show supremacy but also serves as a nice little marketing lesson.
Listerine was originally formulated in 1879 as a surgical antiseptic. Apparently some folks even used it as a treatment for gonorrhea… It wasn't until the 1920s that sales of Listerine really took off. No there wasn't an epidemic of gonorrhea (well at least I hope there wasn't, I wasn't around back then) sales took off once the product began being marketed as a cure for 'chronic halitosis' or bad breath. That strategy brought with it a new challenge though. Every day folks had no idea their breath was even a problem.
That's where marketing stepped in to help educate the masses. Ad campaigns for Listerine began to focus on the scourge of bad breath and how bad breath was in fact ruining the lives of every day Americans without their knowledge. If you think about it, this marketing strategy was brilliant. Rather than marketing the product itself, they were in fact educating their audience about a problem that most didn't have much knowledge of. The folks behind Listerine ended up selling bad breath, not mouth wash. The end result of this however was a whole lot of mouthwash sales by people who no longer wanted to have their lives ruined by bad breath.
The hottest trend in marketing today is content marketing or inbound marketing. It's a strategy built around creating and making available a wealth of content for your audience with the goal of educating them. Building trust with your audience by helping them learn more about the various challenges that they face, before trying to sell them any products. As it turns out this isn't a new idea.
After all, I woke up this morning and rinsed my mouth out with Listerine…